Wot I Think: Lego Lord Of The Rings

By Adam Smith on December 14th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

Lego Lord of the Rings has been out for a while but I’ve only just managed to walk into Mordor. It was quite simple in the end. I also tossed a dwarf, loads of times, and I avoided being Legolas as much as possible because something about the cut of his jib irritates me. I undertook the Quest for Mount Doom and, eventually, I saved Middle Earth from evil. But I also broke every piece of furniture in Rivendell, spent ages looking for a lost hat and generally made a nuisance out of myself. Here’s wot I think of the whole adventure.

Peter Jackson? Peter Jokeson more like. You know what I’m talking about. The same guy who felt the need to cut out the most important part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy when he adapted it for the screen has only gone and expanded The Hobbit, which is three pages long, into a seven hundred and four hour trilogy that he wants you to watch at twice the speed of normal life. Or something. It’s technical. It’s also madness.

The specific excised passage in Jackson’s adaptation, which is more abridged than a Sunday School Bible, occurs just after the hobbits visit The Prancing Pony. After meeting Aragorn, the jolly little footmen remember that there was a pond back in Hobbiton, with a small jetty suitable for fishing. Pippin has a rod in his backpack so they reckon, sod the quest, and instead head back through the Old Forest, smash everything they see en route, then ride a pig around for a while, destroy a market square, forget why they came back to Hobbiton in the first place, and end up dancing at a party. And then they break everything at the party into pieces as well, leaving a group of hobbits jigging, dementedly, on an empty patch of land.

He also left out Tom Bombadil and some people were bothered by that as well. They clearly hadn’t thought about the embarrassment and horror of watching Robin Williams, or somebody else twinkly eyed and prone to sugary outbursts, prancing about with twigs in his beard trilling, “Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!”

Bombadil does make an appearance in Lego Lord of the Rings and so does all the backtracking, smashing and fishing you could hope for. It’s optional, as is the majority of the game, but good grief, it’s hard to turn down all of that brick-breaking and exploration. Middle Earth isn’t enormous but it is open, after a bit of work. Each chapter of the story sets the gathered characters on a contained quest, which, when completed, opens up the area of the world for exploration and free play. Most involve getting from A to B, although with enough variation in sub-objectives to ensure they have more than changing colour schemes to recommend them.

I was unsure about the use of dialogue from the films but it works well, particularly when used to send up the earnest line readings. As someone who enjoyed the Wingnut versions enough to have seen their extended versions several times, I took great pleasure in seeing their moments of wide-eyed sentimentality punctured. The gags are corny and sometimes the humour only stretches so far as replacing a weapon with a carrot or a frying pan, but Sam does take an orc down with his pan in the first film and I’m pretty sure one of the Uruk-Hai gets knocked over by a pinecone. Lego Lord of the Rings is sillier but in its later stages, when it more confidently switches dialogue into alternate scenes, it’s a cleverer silliness than shield-surfing Legolas ever was.

It’s not only the voices that are borrowed. Entire scenes and sets are recreated to delightful effect. Even camera angles are recognisable, but it’s when the references go beyond aesthetic nods and handshakes that the game is at its most playful. Many of the specific obstacles and objectives are drawn from minor details in the films. The attempt to cross Caradhras is made difficult due to frequent snowdrifts, deeper than a dwarf’s makeshift dunny, and the taller members of the Fellowship can be used to rescue the smaller when they become stuck. Because each member has a special ability or two, it’s often necessary to transport Gimli or Sam across in order to advance, which makes for enjoyable exchanges, reminiscent of Lost Vikings.

The need to exchange characters is also in keeping with themes of fellowship and finding strength in unlikely places. I was pleased that Sam’s cookery and gardening skills are far more useful than all the violence any warrior can muster, and as he and Frodo walk into Mordor, it’s the valet who leads the way.

The story missions recreate all the major beats of Jackson’s trilogy and most work well. There’s the occasional frustrating encounter, particularly those that run too long. I’m thinking specifically of the Dead Marshes, which are the closest thing Middle Earth has to a sewer level, with their thin walkways and repetitive tasks, which might as well be ‘open valve to drain water’. Dull, dull, dull. But for every section like that, there are six or seven that will bring a smile to all but the most unsmiling faces: catching fish to tame Gollum, distracting a Black Rider by causing a beehive to fall on his bonce, or actually gathering the necessaries for the idiot hobbits to cook their fourteenth supper-feast on Weathertop.

Even if the story missions were weak, I’d have been happy to endure them because unlocking Middle Earth and then exploring it freely is a fine reward. In the construction of the world, Lego pieces are only used for objects that can be broken, which includes every living thing, and the rest has a slightly more fantastic design than the films. Everything looks great though, from the splendid backdrops to the blocky Balrog, and there are minigames and collectibles aplenty off the well-trodden paths.

The compact nature of the world has its charms as well. Ever noticed how wherever someone stands in Middle Earth, Mount Doom is lurking just over their shoulder, trying to ruin their family photo? Lego Lord of the Rings seems to know that. Leaving Moria, there’s a small incline and just around the bend, there’s Lothlorien, resplendent. Look back from the forest and the entrance to the mines can just about be seen and that’s good. My mind made the least predictable connection it could have made by making a comparison with Dark Souls and its approach to world-building. Several linear paths, landmarks on every horizon and the sense of a place that has collapsed in on itself rather than spread thin and stretched like butter on an abundance of bread.

It’s a journey without much of an in between, offering adventure at almost every step. What little does exist between the known events has been filled with bricks to collect, objects to smash, characters to purchase and a sprinkling of optional missions.

If you are happy to spend hours of your life exploring a small and lovable Middle Earth, smashing things and seeking out simple puzzles, then you will find Lego Lord of the Rings to be exceedingly generous. At its base, there’s little deviation from the established Lego format but the open world, along with a wider range of abilities, and basic crafting and equipping of items, makes for a more expansive game. Add to that the strongest use of a license yet (the films, not the book), with intelligent use of the voices, visual design and music, and this is my favourite Lego game to date. Everything may be made of fake plastic but crossing back into the Shire and hearing the first stirring of ‘Concerning Hobbits’ creeping into the score is utterly heartwarming.

I should probably say something about how the multiplayer works, A partner can drop in at any time and you’re both free to switch between available characters at will. The split screen works well, only dividing when necessary and shifting to track both players without being too obtrusive. Occasionally, two events are happening at the same time in different places and the players are separated. This first occurs when the hobbits are sneaking through the forest, avoiding the Black Rider, and Saruman is forcing Gandalf to breakdance. One player is left with the hobbits while the other controls Gandalf.

Maybe some people enjoy that separation but, I must admit, I dismissed my co-op partner at that point. The game may be generous but I’m quite selfish and, left with Sam rubbing some twigs together to start a fire, I was dismayed. I didn’t want to miss out on my first chance to be Gandalf so I ended up playing the rest of the game on my own. And I’m very happy that I did. Multiplayer may be fun but sometimes a man has to be one and whole, for many hours, when there’s so much to enjoy and to be, and to do.

The special edition of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on DVD had a Lego version of the film included as a bonus feature. Or at least I thought it did. When I saw that option in the menu, I was amazed that the whole thing had been recreated so imagine my face when I found out I was wrong. The feature only contained the Knights of the Round Table musical scene and I’m still disappointed about that. Lego Lord of the Rings makes me feel much better though, by containing Lego versions of almost every major scene in a long and complex cinematic trilogy, and then filling those scenes with things to do.

Lego Lord of the Rings is available now, as is the demo, which unfortunately contains one of the game’s worst story missions. Boo.

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46 Comments »

  1. WoundedBum says:

    I would have bought this instantly if it had online co-op, but it’s nice to hear singleplayer is still fun. These games usually dip in price fairly quickly too, so I can wait.

    • kathyswenson8 says:

      before I saw the draft that said $6768, I didnt believe that…my… neighbour woz realey making money in their spare time online.. there neighbor haz done this for only about 17 months and a short time ago took care of the depts on there apartment and bourt a gorgeous GMC. we looked here..Read More

      • Baines says:

        Maybe the spam bot filter needs a setting that auto-blocks anyone who’s name ends with a number.

        • Text_Fish says:

          But then what would become of my good friends Kathy Swenson and Chloe Brown?

    • Torn says:

      Yeah… absolute madness that the PC version doesn’t have online coop, when the console Lego games do.

      This would have been an instant buy for me if I could coop it with my steam friends.

  2. SkittleDiddler says:

    I got pretty bored with LLoTR after a few hours, which is disappointing because I was so looking forward to it. It suffers from the same problem as the rest of the LEGO games: monotonous gameplay and a strange lack of overall variety.

    Damn fine looking game though.

  3. Jody Macgregor says:

    Sam wins the most valuable hobbit award for sure. He can also start fires, which is useful a ridiculous number of times. He’s a tiny hobbit pyromaniac.

    I’ve finished the story levels, and the bonus level you unlock at the end is incredible.

  4. Rensdyr says:

    So the whole game is in stopmotion?

    • int says:

      No, you actually have to print out little paper charts and make your own troops.

      • roguewombat says:

        Sounds like someone should’ve grabbed the MakerBot version.

      • Kasab says:

        It’s funny, everyone was so enthralled by The Witcher 2 but I don’t see why a game that only gives you a few papercraft characters and no instructions or fluff whatsoever outside of a few feelies is so well loved. Why does it cost so much, too? Is there something else in the box that I missed besides the papercrafts?

        • 2helix4u says:

          I don’t totally disagree but there’s also the interesting if endloaded combat and skills, involving a lot of preparation and a neat monster hunting system idea that’s pulled off imperfectly but attempts to merge lore, quests and gameplay and pulls it off well or at least better than I see most RPGs these days.
          It also has a story divide at one point that embarrasses most choice based RPGs.
          Play it with a game pad, at least pre enhance, it works real well but with a PC sensibility.

        • Eldiran says:

          It comes with a shiny coaster too!

  5. povu says:

    We need a 24/48 FPS cap option.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      As long as you make the 48fps version look like cheap daytime TV

  6. mgardner says:

    My wife and I have been playing this co-op since last weekend, and we both love it. We tried Lego Star Wars and Harry Potter (all three are franchises we enjoy) but neither of those two held our attention. For whatever reason, Lego LotR has hit a sweet spot.

    I was concerned I might not like the use of the film dialog, or the silly parts (I hated the silly parts in the film), but Adam is right – when a Lego figure does something silly, it’s not out of place at all and blends together so nicely.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I’d recomend giving the Lego Batman and Indianna Jones games a go too then. My partner and I preferred them to the Harry Potter ones.

  7. FurryLippedSquid says:

    It’s not often you see the summary you were looking for in the last paragraph, in the fourth to last paragraph, but then I am very new to RPS.

    • Ragnar says:

      Welcome to RPS – it really stands for Read the whole damn article, Paper, Shotgun. :)

  8. Ravelle says:

    It’s not the most exciting game but it has a lot to offer, collectables, sub missions, city free roaming, world map etc. I play it with my brother once in a while when we’re in for some relaxing time. And yes the game looks amazing, really great job with the lightning.

  9. hypercrisis says:

    Lord of the Rings seems so oddly timed. My younger relatives who loved all the previous titles dont have much interest in this one at all. I wonder who they’re making these games for?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Hobbit fans? I wonder how your younger relatives will change in their interest after they see/ see the hype for that movie!

  10. Chizu says:

    A Lego Holy Grail game would be great.
    Shame that Knights of the Round Table bit is the most we’ll probably get.

  11. FurryLippedSquid says:

    What’s next? Twilight?

    Fifty shades of plastic?

    Lego Die Hard gets my vote.

    • Ravelle says:

      They usually go for well known movie franchises and they didn’t do Jurassic Park yet so maybe that’s on their radar.

    • Premium User Badge

      Simplisto says:

      It’ll be interesting to see if Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment will make a new Lego game for the upcoming Star Wars film, now that it’s owned by Disney.

      I suspect we’ll be seeing a Justice League Lego, and perhaps even a Superman-focused Lego game, as Warner Brothers will be releasing their ‘Man of Steel’ and Justice League films soon enough.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Lego Transformers seems to make sense somehow.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Lego Life of Pi

  12. Spacewalk says:

    Is it a big a bug ridden piece of shit as most of the other Lego games? Does the AI display an occasional inability to navigate even the most direct of paths like in some of the other Lego games? I really need to know before I buy this.

  13. history_denier says:

    My 5 year old son and I have played through the Star Wars and Batman games and he is getting this for his birthday in January. This WIT has filled me with anticipation. I credit my son’s skill at 3D platform jumping to the often times frustrating, but consequence free jumping bits in the Lego games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oozo says:

      It’s what my 9-year old nephew gets for christmas, and I must admit I very much wish he would invite me to play it coop with him.

  14. GallonOfAlan says:

    In case anyone from Traveller’s Tales ever reads this – DOCTOR WHO IS THE PERFECT FRANCHISE FOR LEGO GAMES.

    • MacTheGeek says:

      I want Tt to pick up on the rather blatant Monty Python hint dropped in the article first. “Help, help, I’m being assembled! Come and see the assembly inherent in the system!”

    • siegarettes says:

      Except that the Doctor has a no violence rule which takes the fun out of it.

  15. bill says:

    ooh. I had no interest in this as a game, but I’ve always liked the idea of exploring middle earth.

    PS/ The snowdrift thing was from the books right?

  16. jha4ceb says:

    If the splitscreen is anything like the Wii version, it’s pretty terrible — the “dynamic” splitting is far too keen, and half the time you end up with a split screen with the same thing on each half. Very annoying.

    • Ravelle says:

      There is an option to change it to vertical splitscreen, which is what I did too. The Dynamic SP rotates like crazy and is very disorienting.

    • Premium User Badge

      Morph says:

      Yeah the dynamic split screen is rubbish, and it splits at the slightest moment, even when it could easily show both players on the same screen. However the vertical split screen is always split, which is not what I wanted.

      Good game otherwise, but that does spoil things a bit.

  17. MacTheGeek says:

    Tom Bombadil appears on Lego LOTR? Hooray!

    (By the way, does this foreshadow a Bombadil appearance in “Hobbit III: The Search for More Padding”? He couldn’t appear in the game if he wasn’t part of the film license, after all…)

  18. NachoPiggy says:

    Absolutely loved this, I’ve been a big LEGO fan since LEGO Island and have spent quite a good chunk of my childhood with my brother and sister playing LEGO Star Wars together. On the contrary to the statement of separation at times on the split-screen, I really loved it, it gave me and my partner a unique cooperation moment despite being separated (I think I found one the part on Osgiliath with Faramir, Frodo, Sam and Gollum a simple and fun separated co-op moment). Has to be my favorite LEGO game to date, just totally fell in love with the free roam aspect and the opportunity to roam around Middle Earth with my favorite characters.

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    • uh20 says:

      3 spam bots in one post
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      we need a mark as spam button
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  20. Hairball says:

    I always think they should model more of the props and scenes as lego creations. I feel like the older Lego games did more of this.

  21. syndicatedragon says:

    Played the demo. I was really disappointed that it was basically a “LEGO” version of the movies. I feel like that this could have been so much better if it had actually used the original source material and gotten rid of the voice acting altogether. But then it wouldn’t be a quick cash-in with a huge fountain of DLC…